In the aftermath of Marvel’s “House of M” event, the amnesiac Wolverine regained all of the memories of his long life back, along with the revelation that several decades ago, a secret organization turned Wolverine into their slave and assassin. When the ongoing series “Wolverine Origins” began in 2006, Logan set out to bring down this conspiracy and make them pay for what they did to him. Wolverine’s vendetta became complicated by the discovery that he had a son he had never knew about, and to make matters worse, the conspiracy’s head, Romulus, raised that son, the villainous Daken, to hate his father. Complicating things even further was the fact that Romulus actually wanted Wolverine to come after him and kill most of his agents. The master manipulator has been looking for someone to succeed him in his position, and now there are two remaining candidates: Wolverine and Daken.
So if Wolverine is to have any hope of breaking him and his son free from Romulus’s influence, he’ll have to take the Machiavellian villain down once and for all. This April, Logan puts a plan in motion to do just that in “Reckoning,” a four part crossover between “Wolverine Origins by writer Daniel Way and artist Will Conrad and Daken’s series “Dark Wolverine” by Way, his co-writer Marjorie Liu, and artist Stephen Segovia. CBR News spoke with Way about “Reckoning” which kicks off April 21 in “Dark Wolverine” #85 before continuing a week later in “Wolverine Origins” #47.
In “Wolverine Origins” #46, in stores now, Way set the stage for “Reckoning” with a story that had Wolverine confessing his role in the death of one of his greatest loves, Mariko Yashida, to his teammate Nightcrawler. According to the writer, there were a couple of reasons to revisit Mariko before moving on to “Reckoning.”
“Wolverine is a character who doesn’t have any shortage of tragic moments, but this one was particularly tragic because what usually happens to Wolverine is that the woman he loves is killed. With Mariko, he’s the one that did the killing and that’s haunted him for a very long time. He’s never really confronted it, or at least readers have never been privy to how he sees the events,” Way told CBR News. “As fans, we saw things from a third person perspective, and it was tragic and heartbreaking, but how does Wolverine feel about this? He knows that going into what he’s going into against Romulus, which also involves his son, he needs to be unencumbered. He needs to have a clear head. He wants to put all this stuff behind him. So this is one of those things right at the top of the list. If he doesn’t do this, it’s going to carry over, and that’s where he’s been for so long. Everything has just carried over into the next phase and snowballed and gotten worse. So he’s just trying to come to grips and really starting to be honest with himself.”
As a way of coming to grips with what happened to Mariko, Wolverine revealed to Nightcrawler that Mariko had been poisoned, and, instead of watching his love die a slow and agonizing death, Wolverine fulfilled her last request and killed her with his claws. Wolverine wanted Nightcrawler to blame him for Mariko’s death, but his friend instead encouraged Logan to accept the fact that he did what he thought was best in a situation that he had no control over, and he should forgive himself. This struggle between blame and forgiveness is one of the central themes of “Origins.”
“At the end of the Mariko story, Wolverine doesn’t forgive himself. He’s basically admitting his guilt, and he has a friend there who’s trying to point out some alternate takes on it,” Way explained. “Wolverine, though, the more he talks about it, the more he becomes married to the idea that it was all his fault. It’s almost like he’s trying to atone too much. The character that seems to be everywhere all the time is trying to take the blame for everything.
“What he’s trying to do with Nightcrawler, is, he’s trying to get someone to agree with him that he’s the worst fucking person in the world,” Way continued. “Does he have stuff to atone for? Yes. Has he made mistakes? Yes, but are they all his fault? No. He’s not quite ready to accept that though. He gives it a valiant try, but at the end when Nightcrawler is telling him that he might actually be wrong, that’s not what he’s ready to hear. What he wants to hear is, ‘How could you?'”
At the end of “Origins” #46, Wolverine leaves Nightcrawler to go meet his ally in the final battle against Romulus, his son Daken. The duplicitous Daken agrees to help Wolverine for two reasons. One, he hates Romulus almost as much as his father, and two, he want to make sure that Romulus doesn’t rob him of the honor of killing dear old dad.
“Daken is going to stick close, because it’s just his nature to be opportunistic. He knows something is happening. It involves Romulus and Wolverine and therefore it involves him. So he’s going to keep himself in that player position as much as possible – and he loves that position, Way remarked. “That is why he so readily agrees to help, because Wolverine is coming to him. That’s exactly where he wants him to be, but as you’ll see during ‘Reckoning,’ the old man is a lot smarter than the kid gives him credit for.”
When Daken and Wolverine meet at the end of “Origins” #46 Daken is not clad in his father’s old costume, because “Reckoning” takes place after “Dark Reign,” and now that Norman Osborn is no longer in power, Daken doesn’t have the fun of impersonating his father on a global stage as a member of the Dark Avengers. “When Daken kind of came into the spotlight during ‘Dark Reign,’ he did so wearing his father’s costume. So he never really gave up any of his anonymity, and that’s something that he uses to his advantage constantly. He remains that unknown quantity,” Way explained. “And he said in his first appearance in ‘Origins,’ his costume is the clothes that he wears every day. What he is; is underneath. If he were to quantify himself and wear a costume, then everyone would know that’s him. So I don’t see Daken as a guy who wears a costume. His costume is whatever he’s wearing that day, because that’s not really him. It’s just want he wants you to see.”
Way describes “Reckoning” as a story that involves international intrigue and is ultimately about the meaning of revenge. “We have three characters in this story who are motivated by revenge,” the writer told us. “Romulus wants revenge against humanity as a race, because he’s been around for a very long time. He was here when we were still huddling in the caves, and that was when he was at the top of the food chain, him and others like him. Eventually they lost, because they lost the numbers. It wasn’t that we were all that impressive as singular animals, but en masse, we just kind of came flooding out and, before he knew it, they were surrounded. Romulus countered that by going behind the scenes and becoming this puppet master. That’s the way that he operates, and we’ve shown this in ‘Origins.’ He finds someone in a position of some power and then offers them a lot more in exchange for something. At the same time, he’s doing the same thing with that person’s opposite number. He’s playing them against one another, escalating the conflict, with the goal being the maximum body count. This is what Wolverine was continuously deployed for, and this is what Daken was trained for from birth. They take bad situations and make them infinitely worse.
“Wolverine’s revenge has been unfocused for such a long time until Romulus kind of coalesced out of the mist. So now it’s focused on him,” Way continued. “Daken always felt that he got short changed. He got Wolverine as a dad, Romulus as a step dad. One of them didn’t know him and the other one didn’t love him. He’s surrounded by lesser beings and just continuously disgusted by what he has to deal with and how meager everything is. If only he could clean the slate things would be much better. So ‘Reckoning’ is an exploration of revenge as a motivation. Where does it get you and where does it take you?”
For four years now in “Origins,” Way has been telling a long form story that often features intrigue, explosive violence and double crosses. Since “Reckoning” is the climax to that story, readers can expect all of those elements to be present; they’ll just be turned up to 11. “Everybody gets sold out in this crossover [Laughs]. Every single character winds up on the short end of the stick at one point or the other, but that’s just the nature of the characters,” Way said. “It’s not that Wolverine is necessarily deceptive. It’s just that he’s extremely streetwise. He’s been through plenty of brutal scrapes, so he knows how to maneuver in this territory. Daken is deceptive and opportunistic. Romulus is deceptive, but not necessarily opportunistic in that he doesn’t really take advantage of opportunities. He creates them.”
“Reckoning” is the climax to the story of “Origins,” but it’s not the final storyline. The series will wrap up with a two part coda called “What I Do” that begins in June’s “Wolverine Origins” #49 and finishes in July in issue #50, the extra long series finale.
“This is where we kind of sum it all up. Wolverine has been on this cycle for so long. He falls in love. He has some peace. That peace is ripped away from him because the woman that he loves is killed. He goes crazy and does a bunch of bad things. During that time, he always ends up teaming up with somebody and does more bad things. He burns himself out. He runs away. He finds a girl, He finds peace. Then the cycle starts again when she’s killed. It’s been repeated several times,” Way stated. “Now, that’s not a coincidence. This is a pattern of behavior, and it comes from a century of conditioning. This is always what he was supposed to do. We’ve shown throughout ‘Origins’ that Romulus, as long as he’s been in control, he’s always in on those key moments, whether it’s indirectly or through one of his agents like Cyber or guys like that.
“After a century, this is a hard habit to break, and in ‘What I Do,’ that conditioning, that behavior is trying to reassert itself. Basically, it’s Wolverine white knuckling it through withdrawal,” Way continued “We bring in everything; all of the old tell tale signs like Sabretooth showing up on his birthday to beat the shit out of him. Why does that happen every year? Does it really happen every year? And why? We show the whole cycle in that one story, but this time around the big question is: are we going to see the whole cycle? Or is he finally going to put the brakes on it? And, really, how bad are things going to get? It’s almost like this thing inside of him takes off and has a life of its own. It’s controlled him for so long. Can the real man step out and put a stop to it?”
Most of “Origins” has been about Wolverine coming to terms with his past, but for the series final arc Way is forcing his protagonist to face his future. “Wolverine has never given himself time to consider his future. It’s probably the one thing that he’s afraid of. There’s a scene with Cloak in a previous arc, where Wolverine is in the Darkforce Dimension and just stares out into the darkness. This light comes at him, and that’s his future,” Way stated. “It’s something he’s never seen before, and this is a guy who’s seen everything. He shies away from it then, but what we need to do is get Wolverine to reconcile his past, before he moves on to his future. That’s really the point of ‘Origins.’ If you don’t know where you came from, you’ll have no idea where you’re going.”
In June in “Dark Wolverine” #87, Daken will also be coming to terms with what the future holds for him. “At the end of ‘Reckoning’ Daken is so busy screwing over everybody else that he leaves himself open to a strike from someone he didn’t expect it from. It’s almost a fatal blow to his perceived path towards his perceived destiny. In #87, what he has to do is reorient, and he still wants the same things. He just has to figure out a new way to get them,” Way said. “The issue is kind of an interlude where Daken goes to Rome and has another disastrous flirtation with love, or at least love Daken style. It’s similar to what we did with the recent issue featuring Moonstone. This is a time where he’s kind of reorganizing himself. We get to kind of look behind the curtain a bit and see just how scary this guy is.”
After issue #87 “Dark Wolverine” begins another crossover; this time with Rick Remender’s “FrankenCastle” series. “After Daken cut Frank Castle up into pieces and threw him into the sewer [Which happened in the one-shot “Dark Reign: The List-Punisher” by Rick Remender and John Romita Jr.], Frank came back. So for those of us who know the Punisher character, did we think for a second that he was going to let that slide?” Way remarked. “This is a story that everybody saw coming. This is round two, but obviously the parameters have changed in both corners of the ring. Because Daken isn’t in the same place anymore, and obviously, Frank Castle is a much different man than the one Daken faced before [He’s now an undead Frankenstein style monstrosity]. The story is going to be another one of those balls to the wall complete gore fests, and Rick, Marjorie and I are having a great time with it.”
Daken will spend his summer vacation tussling with Frank Castle, and when the fall comes, a new era begins for Wolverine’s villainous son. “I can’t really express how gratified I am by the response to ‘Dark Wolverine’ by the fans. When I came up with the character, and we brought in Marjorie and we sat down to start fleshing out what this character would do in his own book, we knew it was going to be explosive. It was going to be something that people were going to love or hate. And history shows that comic fans are really good at hating stuff [Laughs],” Way said “There really wasn’t anything we were doing with ‘Dark Wolverine’ that had a precedent. Our hero was a bad guy, not an anti-hero, a real fucking bad guy. His stories didn’t have clear beginnings, middles, and ends. Things were always in flux. He’s a character that would push others out, so at times you were seeing more of satellite characters than you were of the main character, simply because that’s how he operates. This is some new territory.
“Then there was his sexuality. As much we didn’t consider it to be an issue, I think we all acknowledged that there was some opportunity for some blowback there. Yet, the book came out, and we got the coolest feedback,” Way continued. “Early on, I had [a conversation] with Marjorie where she just said, ‘Dan, we need to go balls out on this thing.’ It sounded so funny coming out of her mouth. She’s calling me out. So we just really went for it, and people seemed to really enjoy this book and enjoy the character. They cheer him on, but at the same time their cheers are like, ‘Screw you! You’re a bastard!’ But they’re still there and they’re still into it. They’re able to read into the book are able to enjoy some of the more subtle, sub-textual things about it. And I think that’s incredible. I wouldn’t have bet on it being a hit, but Goddamn it! It’s a hit.
“”So, all that being said, the book has done really well. Even though ‘Dark Reign’ was coming to an end with ‘Siege,’ there was absolutely no reason for us to stop doing the book, and there are some big changes ahead for ‘Dark Wolverine.’ We’ll continue on into the ‘Heroic Age,’ and whatever comes next. It looks like this character has found his footing and found his audience and we’re going to do our best to keep that momentum going.”